From the readings for this week, it can be gleaned that strategy is now at the forefront of international education policy, as well as higher education in general. Success is usually determined by whether an institute has developed and implemented a sound strategy. The desire for strategic planning can be found in all corners of education; in the finance class, we are learning how budgets are not as simple as adding and subtracting, but puzzles that need to be solved in order to place institutions in solid financial positions. In order for international education programs to get off the ground, and sustain themselves, those in charge must do a lot of analysis and looking to the future.
After reading the three pieces, one particular passage stood out to me, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. In the case study, the authors point out that choosing an international market is an extremely important decision. Sometimes a choice can be pretty obvious- an institution in a capitalism country probably isn’t going to try to develop a partnership with North Korea (not that it would be able to make any contact in the first place). More often than not, though, deciding which nations and the particular institutions within them to partner with could be a time-consuming activity. The authors list “culture and languages, governmental regulations and policy, transactional costs, risk, opportunity and market size” as just some of the factors that need to be taken into consideration (p. 6). That’s a lot to think about!
The first example that popped into my head was the Confucius Institute. These centers purport to offer “language instruction, cultural immersion, teacher training, scholarships, and testing,” according to one of its sites in the United States. Unfortunately, Confucius Institutes are generally mired with controversy over their true purpose. In 2008, the Vancouver Sun released an article whose first paragraph sums up a lot of people’s opinions on the Chinese organization: “There are deeply divided views about the Confucius Institute in Vancouver: Some say it’s a goodwill gesture by Beijing to teach Chinese language and culture, while others believe it’s part of a plot by an emerging superpower to infiltrate and influence foreign citizens and their governments.” Whoa. That’s quite the accusation.
That’s a first-world country, though. It’s not too shocking that people in the wester world would be suspicious of Chinese activities. What about other parts of the world? Didn’t we learn at the beginning of the semester that the Confucius Institutes were pretty popular in Africa? Now that makes sense. Going back to strategies for international markets (which is the whole point of this blog), I feel like whoever decided for African-Chinese partnerships did his or her research.
A few weeks ago I mentioned in a blog about how relationships outside of the western world don’t even appear on our mental spectrum because we have absolutely nothing to do with them- but they do exist. The more I think about the Confucius Institutes operating in Africa, the more it seems so obvious. Many nations in Africa have long been subjugated to both colonialism and neocolonialism by European powers. In swoops China, another country that has been affected by the far-reaching grasp of western empires. The Institutes offer to operate in HEIs in various countries, accessing thousands of bright young minds (except for the students who were sent abroad to study). Now that is strategy at its finest- slowly create a generation of educated people who are more likely to associate with China due to their exposure to its language and culture. Why create ties with the western world when there are just as many opportunities to the east.
Perhaps the intentions of the Confucius Institutes are not quite as nefarious as I make them out to be, but still, partnerships in former colonies seem like a pretty good idea. In any case, this goes to show that determining the appropriate international market is a major step in creating a successful international education program.